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How to avoid hunching at your desk

How to avoid hunching at your desk
Published July 29, 2023 Updated July 29, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

NEW YORK — Unlike “tech neck,” a common term for repetitive strain caused by looking down at phones and tablets, back pain caused by hunching over a computer can afflict the neck, shoulders and entire back. I asked experts how to prevent pain.

MAKE SURE YOUR WORKSTATION IS ERGONOMICALLY CORRECT. Your arms should be positioned at right angles and your screen should be eye level, said Dr Edward Wei, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He suggests a laptop stand, or even a stack of books, and a wireless keyboard.

TAKE BREAKS. Set a timer to move every half-hour, if only for a few minutes, said Dr Cara Prideaux, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic. Even “micro-movement strategies,” like fidgeting, might help stave off pain.

STRETCH WHEN PAINS STRIKES. Simple stretches can help a throbbing back. While seated, “take your right foot and cross it over your left knee,” said Ms Jessamyn Stanley, author of “Every Body Yoga.”

Then, “fold forward over your leg, if it feels comfortable, and then switch sides.” Repeat a few times.

For upper back pain, grip your opposite elbows with both hands to make a picture-frame shape. Then move your “picture frame” above your head, open your chest and hold for a few breaths.

MAKE CORE-STRENGTHENING EXERCISES A HABIT. A 2019 meta-analysis found that regular exercise was the most effective way to prevent recurring back pain.

Experts advised focusing on your core, which includes back muscles, hip flexors, glutes, quads and hamstrings.

Dr Nnaemeka Echebiri, a physiatrist who specialises in spine and musculoskeletal medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, recommended yoga, walking and swimming.

RETHINK YOUR BINGE-WATCHING POSITION. Watching shows in bed while balancing a laptop on your chest is a “position to avoid,” Dr Echebiri said.

Instead, sit upright, put a pillow vertically behind your back and place the laptop on a stand. And remember, if your pain lasts more than three months, see a doctor or a physical therapist.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.